Arsenal must be brave – Arteta

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says his critics have the “right to hit me” and his team must be “brave” and put their “face and body on the line” to reverse their poor form.

The Gunners have lost four of their past five Premier League matches and slipped to 15th during their worst start to a season for 46 years.

Arteta dismissed talk of a relegation battle, describing the run as “a blip”.

“At the moment, I’m sorry, but we have to take the bullets,” he said.

“Dropping and dropping down the table is not the situation we want to be in. But this is our reality right now and we have to face it.

“We have to face it being brave, fighting and no-one giving up or anything.

“It’s not time to hide – it’s time to put your face and body on the line.”

The Gunners face high-flying Southampton on Wednesday (18:00 GMT kick-off), seeking to avoid losing five consecutive home games for the first time in their history.

Arsenal’s technical director Edu has called for patience from supporters as the club rebuilds under Arteta, while Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has also offered a ringing endorsement of his former assistant.

However, Arteta, who succeeded fellow Spaniard Unai Emery in December 2019, says he is happy to assume responsibility for their failings on the pitch.

“We are not winning football matches and I have to put my chest there and you have to hit me,” added the 38-year-old former Gunners captain in a news conference on Tuesday.

“You have the right to hit me because I’m not winning.

“So what else can I do? Put my head down, work harder and try to do things better and improve. That’s how we have to approach things, in my opinion.

“It’s natural. I accept the criticism and it’s part of the job.

“You can explain whatever you want but, at the end of the day, you have to win football matches and this club is too big to accept this many losses in the last weeks.

“So my chest is here – hit me, guys.”

Xhaka ‘deserves protection’

Arsenal last won a Premier League game on 1 November at Manchester United

Arteta also defended midfielder Granit Xhaka who was sent off during Sunday’s 1-0 home loss to Burnley.

Before the Spaniard took charge at Emirates Stadium, Switzerland international Xhaka was stripped of the club captaincy and his latest transgression has seen him linked with a moveexternal-link away in January.

But Arteta says the 28-year-old warrants his support. “He has had tough times here and he’s not the only one, there’s a lot of players that have had rocky moments,” he said.

“But what I can say about Granit is that his professionalism and his commitment with the club and with his team-mates is maximal.

“He knows – and we all know – that he had a moment where he’s lost it and I know the reason why. But what I cannot do is just throw everything that he has done away because he’s made a mistake.

“We all make mistakes and I am here as well to protect the players when I see that they deserve that.

“And, for sure, Granit is one of them – for the way that he approaches every training session, for the way he wants to do things in the right way all the time and for the professional that he is.”

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